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Ask The Standard: How many people are homeless in San Francisco?

A person with a clipboard conducting the homeless point-in-time count.
Gigi Whitley, a San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing employee, marks the tally sheet during the “point-in-time” count as Gregory Clark sits in a wheelchair on the street on Thursday, January 26, 2017. | Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images | Source: Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

This installment of Ask The Standard draws from a set of widely held questions about homelessness in San Francisco.

On any given night, about 3,400 people are sleeping in San Francisco’s homeless shelters, while about 4,400 sleep on the city’s streets, according to the city’s most recent one-night count conducted in February 2022.

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The data is collected every other year as part of the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing’s “point in time” count, which is required in order for the department to receive funding from the federal government.

The count is conducted by a group of people who travel every block of the city on a single night counting those who appear to be homeless. The one-night tally is the primary source of data about the size of the city’s homeless population. The city later follows up with interviews to get a better idea of the demographic breakdown and backstories of homeless people in San Francisco.

According to the count, overall homelessness decreased by 3.5% since 2019, though it’s still 13% higher than it was in 2017. Historical data shows that the number of homeless people peaked in 2002, with around 8,600 people living on the city’s streets or in shelters, which is 11% higher than today’s numbers.

The city estimates that over 20,000 individuals experience homelessness locally over the course of a year.

David Sjostedt can be reached at